regions. This sparsely populated amazing c Republic * was, in fact,
nothing less than one vast prison settlement. It consisted of thousands
of labour camps with their millions of prisoners. The government of this
c Republic ' was in the hands of the prison camps authorities.
Professor N. gave fkst-hand information of how much depended on the
whim of the local authorities as to whether or not the Polish prisoners were
released after the conclusion of the Polish-Russian Treaty.
" On August 15," he wrote// ail of us, with the exception of those seriously
ill, were taken to the camp near a railway station about two miles away.
There we found other Poles who had been brought from neighbouring
camps—numbering about 400 persons in all.
wc We reached the spot in the early evening. We were all confident that
the next day, or at the most in a few days, we would be loaded on to a train
and sent somewhere south.
" Instead, at 4 o'clock that morning, we were driven to work as before.
The order was accompanied by mocking gibes, sneers and curses, the only
answer to our protests against the violation of our freedom, and we ended
up by openly revolting at this treatment. A few hours later, one of the
leaders of a group of camps named Makiejev, arrived. He intimated that
he wished to speak with one of us only, and the people selected me. The
leader began with threats, announcing that we had no right to consider
ourselves free. He stated that cases of release would be individual and
would concern only those who had been sentenced on insufficient grounds,
open to a re-investigation by the authorities.
" His remark infuriated me and I heatedly enquired if it were fitting that
he, as a representative of the Soviet authorities, should state in the presence
of witnesses that * The Soviet Government is capable of sentencing people
for insufficient reasons? * I stated that, being more loyal towards the Allied
Soviet Government than he was himself, we would take the liberty of not
believing his statement. It would be more advisable, I continued, if he
became better acquainted with the contents of the Polish-Soviet agreement,
which had explicitly stated that an* amnesty * had been granted to Polish
citizens who had been placed in the camps and prisons on the grounds of
well motivated verdicts. The embarrassed leader returned to his head-
quarters. The nest day negotiations on our behalf were commenced. Their
attitude was now quite amicable. We were asked if we would continue
our work under the former conditions until transport arrangements could
be provided for us.
" On September i, half of us, about 200 men, were conducted beyond the
precincts of the camps. I was lucky enough to be among this number.
Here we were advised that we were free, and the distribution of* amnesty"
" Now, however, a fresh trouble arose, for we were told that we would
not be allowed to leave the boundary of Komi. This was a terrible blow,
as it was unexpected. It was clearly written in our papers that we had the
right to choose freely any locality hi Soviet Russia to which we wanted to go.
A! of us wanted to make our way South; but the Bolsheviks had inserted
only a few localities supposed to have been chosen voluntarily by us. I
advised my companions not to accept these papers, and we all agreed upon
this action which put the Soviet leader in a quandary. He threatened us
furiously, but we stood our ground s maintaining that we only demanded
what the Soviet Government had granted us.
" The leader then telephoned the Head Office of the Komi Camps*